Raptors. Birds of Prey. I love them. They are majestic birds. Of all of them, I think the Red-Tailed Hawk is my favorite. They are fairly ubiquitous. You can see them on fence posts, hunting mice above grass fields, they are uncommonly common, but each time you spot one, they give you a sense or respect and wonder. Such a cool creature. Each of them can be colored a bit differently but chances are when you do see one flying, the markings are pretty distinctive, the white patterns on their wings bordered by a dark-feathered outline, and sometimes the unique red tail.
Around 1998-’99 I stared getting into birds. We lived in San Angelo with the Air Force and yes, one time, I went full-on birder mode with a pair of binoculars sneaking across an open field to spot some Comorants, a water bird, and not a raptor. I don’t know what they were doing in San Angelo as if you are familiar with your Texas geography isn’t anywhere close to the ocean. We had hundreds of birds coming to the feeder in our backyard, most red-shouldered blackbirds. I had identification books and Ma Swinn, Sarah Johnson Swinney visited and she equally, maybe even more so, started getting into birds. It was a great passion we shared and share to this day.
While stationed in Northern California, near Grass Valley, Linda, Marysville, we lived on base. Practically in our back yard, there was a dry creek bed, riparian, and a conservation owl box was put on a tree. That box fell down revealing a ‘litter’ of barn owl young ones with the parents coming back to feed their young. We called the folks who maintain the box and they hung it back up but we had a great view via binoculars of these majestic birds and their cute offspring. It was like having a NatGeo documentary going on in your back yard.
Just look at that dude up their winking at ya? You don’t see owls as much because they are nocturnal. We’ve had two sightings here in Eagle, Idaho that stand out. We used to live across the street from the High School and there was a Great-Horned Owl roosting on a light pole, snowy night walk with the dogs, and you could get right under that pole and check him out for a bit. The owls tend to keep their distance from humans so if you get in their proximity, they usually fly away. Another time, dusk, on a foothill road about 2 miles from where we live, C and I were taking the dogs up there for a romp. We heard the distinctive owl call first and then we spotted him in a tree. The distinctive silhouette standing out against the setting sun sky. Awesome.
Ospreys love fish. You can find them in these parts near water. We got to witness one hunting in a beautiful setting with the Pielsticks at a mountain lake called Delintment in the Southwest Oregon mountains. We also have a family of Ospreys that roost along the Boise river. They are a larger bird, a bit bigger I think than the bald eagle. The nest is along a main thoroughfare road and you can check them out each time you drive by. If you are lucky you can see them in flight with a fish in their claws. Raptors fly with fish facing forward so they are more streamlined. It’s really cool.
One of the smaller of the raptors. These birds are also very cool. You can spot them in Southwest Idaho. They are diminutive in size. I imagine them hunting insects but I’m sure they feast on a rodent or two, field mice. Cool birds.
Each time you spot a Bald Eagle, you feel like something special has happened. They are a conservationist success story. When they became endangered, the cause was traced back to common pesticides that were used on crops and the food chain for whoever that was… caused Bald Eagle shells to become thin, thus not allowing them to keep the species going. Now they’ve made a comeback and you can find them in places in Texas I’ve heard. Certain times of the year (winter) you can usually spot one or two roosting along the Boise River. On the drive to the in-laws, Burns, Oregon, there was a stretch of road you could usually spot a few. We’d pull over like a fam of bird nerds, pull out the binoculars so we could get a better look. Spotting this majestic bird in the wild is something akin to a spiritual experience. It’s hard to describe. Here’s my fave encounter with Bald Eagle, setting: Seward, Alaska.
Eagles aren’t F-ing around. They are a pretty bad ass bird. They aren’t on top of the food chain, we are. But an Eagle just might remind you from time to time, they aren’t to be messed with. I like that about them. Sure in their domain, they might as well be the alpha of raptors, they can take down animals many times their size. Mountain Lions, Goats, Coyotes, people of small stature, Eagles kick ass!!! Some people may not like birds of prey because they’ve taken away chickens from their farms, or picked off pets… but hey, that’s how wildlife works, a bird of prey is going to do what a bird of prey does. I admire and respect them that way as you know… you gotta admire the prey for doing what they do to not become lunch or dinner. Circle of life shit right there. Peace peoples!!